Britain's dental health crisis exposed as hundreds of children in hospital with bad teeth

19 Feb 2024


100,000 child hospitalisations for tooth decay 

Our research has revealed alarming news about NHS dentistry. 

Half of children haven’t seen a dentist in over a year, as families struggle to secure appointments. And the results are shocking - 100,000 children have been hospitalised for tooth decay since 2018, making it the leading cause of hospital admission among under-18s.

More than 100,000 children were taken to hospital with rotten teeth over five years amid a dental health crisis, damning new figures show.

In 2022, 116 needed extractions every day, as 40% of kids now no longer have regular NHS check-ups. The Mirror today launches a campaign to get dental access for all. The latest data shows 104,133 went to hospital with rotten teeth over the past five years. In 2022 alone there were 116 extractions every day. Dental chiefs blame Tory cuts for the crisis, which is preventing children getting vital checks to identify early signs of tooth decay.

British Dental Association chair Eddie Crouch said: “These children are paying the price for this government’s indifference to dentistry. Tooth decay, a preventable disease, remains the number one reason for hospital admissions in children. This is the result of political choices. The Mirror is showing leadership we desperately need to see from Westminster."

The hospital admission for tooth decay figures were obtained under Freedom of Information laws by the Lib Dems. But responses were only received from around half of NHS trusts and the BDA warns the number could be as high as 200,000. 

BDA chiefs also analysed official NHS dentistry figures for 2022, the latest available. It found overall there were 116 extractions a day of children’s teeth, with 73 as a result of decay.

Lib Dem leader Ed Davey said: "Children are forced to put up with the agony of tooth decay as this government neglects dental services. They have made it almost impossible to get a dental appointment."

British Dental Association chair Eddie Crouch said:

His party uncovered figures last year that showed 4.4 million children, or almost 40%, had not seen an NHS dentist in the previous 12 months, as is recommended. And around 52% of adults had missed out on check-ups in the two years before. The NHS dentistry budget for England has remained at around £3 billion for a decade.

A recent BBC investigation found 90% of NHS dentists are not taking on new adult patients, amid warnings the service is close to collapse. The BDA said the system where NHS dentists are paid the same for doing one filling as they are for five is “flawed” and driving many into private practice. A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “We want every adult and child to get an NHS dental appointment and have taken steps to improve access and incentivise practices to deliver more NHS care.”

Martin Bagot, Health and Science editor, The Mirror, 1 February 2024